Elihu Yale –The Governor of Madras

Elihu Yale was born on April 5, 1649, at Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. Yale had many roles as an English merchant, official of the East India Company, and benefactor of Yale University. Although born in Massachusetts, Yale was taken to England by his family at the age of three, and he never returned to America. He was educated at a private school in London.

In 1671 Yale began working for the East India Company and arrived Madras in 1672. By dint of his ability from a low-ranking position he has reached the climax as a governor of Fort Saint George, the East India Company’s installation at Madras in 1687. He served as Governor of Madras from 1687-1692. Five years later the company removed him from office, charging him with self promotion at company expense. He was kept in Madras until 1699 and forced to pay a fine, but Yale was still able to take a sizable fortune with him to England. In London he started the diamond trade, he devoted and spent lot of time and money to philanthropy.

Yale made his first gift (a donation of 32 books) to the school in 1713, when it was known as the Collegiate School at Saybrook. Later, in 1718, Cotton Mather wrote to Yale, hinting broadly that the Saybrook school—which had recently moved to New Haven—could be renamed in Yale’s honour in gratitude for another sizable gift. Yale responded with a gift of more books, a portrait of George I, and a variety of textiles from the East Indies. The gifts were sold in Boston for some £800, and the money was used to construct a building called Yale College in New Haven. By its charter of 1745, the entire institution was named Yale University.

The last year of Yale’s Governorship recognized use of slaves for domestic purposes in Madras The iniquitous practice of stealing children for export was, of course, illegal… (In 1683 there was) absolute prohibition against the exportation of slaves of any age. In 1687 (Yale’s first year as Governor), however, the trade was sanctioned under regulation, a duty of one pagoda being exacted for each slave sent from Madras by sea. In September that year, 665 slaves were exported, giving an idea of the trade. Yale died on July 8, 1721, London, England and was buried at Wrexham in North Wales. On April 5, 1999, the university recognized the 350th anniversary of his birthday.

Keywords: Elihu Yale, Philanthrophy, Slave trade, Madras, Governor of Madras, Yale University.